|Marta, aged six is on the left and still a little shy in spite of the apple I gave her. |
Alex, aged four is on the right.
I think Marta needs the same sort of home cooking Alex and I have enjoyed.
Marta is six years old. Her father never acknowledged her and offered no support to her mother, Nanda, let alone played a part in his daughter’s upbringing. Nanda, a distant cousin of Marcia, did her best by all accounts. Having been burnt once, she did not make the same mistake twice and Marta is her only child. Nice Paul says she is the sweetest little girl he has ever met and I tend to agree. Alex, normally a little thug exhibiting all the selfish symptoms of an only child has really taken to her and is showing a commendable protective spirit (along with a tadge of bossiness taken in good humor by Marta) which is truly heartwarming.
For her Birthday, Marcia received a number of really useful presents for which we are all grateful. A tent along with all the gear; a barbecue the sturdy construction of which reinforces the manufacturer’s boast it is guaranteed for life; stuff for the kitchen; outfits some of which even I like; furniture for the new house (I am listing these in order of my preference, not hers) but I never imagined her wish for a daughter would be fulfilled.
Nanda, still only in her early Twenties died of Malaria a few days before Marcia’s birthday party. In anticipation of the party, she had already bought as a present a group of four Chinese sauce dishes set on a teak base ideal for dips. Marta, nervous, bewildered and clearly upset, brought them along with her to the party.
Families are hugely extended here so I never even knew of Marta’s existence. No-one had briefed me on the tragedy that led us to making our acquaintance. And I guess this was part of the family plan. My first impression of Marta was that she seemed a bit ‘clingy’. She seemed a little overwhelmed with the party and above all, sad and withdrawn. Well, I couldn’t have that, could I? For goodness’ sake, this is Fat Hippo’s, no-one can be miserable here especially such a delightful little girl!
So I spent a lot of time with little Marta. She helped me with the barbecue, helped me serve drinks and was ace with the mixer as we whipped the cream for dessert and believed me when I said that my shirt and trousers would wash clean of the few, insignificant little bits the mixer threw out of the bowl all over me so she shouldn’t worry about it so much. Honestly, Marcia once threw a whole bowl of ice cream mix over me when ever so slightly stressed so half a pound of cream splattered around the kitchen was hardly anything to cry over. I could see that Alex was starting to get jealous. He had plenty of other kids to play with but clearly he did not like the idea of his Dad spending too much time with a six year old so he came over to join us. Together we assembled the various dishes; he showed little Marta where to get the ice; taught her the difference between a beer and a gazoza (soft drink) and the pair of them learnt how to sneak the juiciest, tenderest bits of meat off the barbecue an act of theft which, of course, I never noticed. As a budding restaurateur, I could not have been in better hands.
I never counted heads as the guests left but the following morning I realized there was an extra mouth at the table.
‘Marta might be here for a few days’, said Marcia.
‘I think she is lovely,’ I replied.
‘Actually, she might be here for a few weeks’, Marcia added.
‘Marcia,’ I said shoveling more scrambled egg, bacon, beans and skinned tomato down my throat, ‘I couldn’t care less if she was here forever, she’s delightful and she’s great for Alex, they are inseparable in case you haven't noticed.’
Marcia filled me in on the background I was missing.
‘Fine’, I said, ‘but don’t be surprised if I get really fucking pissed off if they take her away like they did little Cila. As far as I am concerned she is our daughter and Alex’s sister and I don’t want no jack shit git turning up in a year or two, just when she’s settled, and haul her off. This time I will spill blood’.
Hopefully I passed the family test and can hang on to this little orphan. In the meantime, the pair of them, Alex and Marta, are sat on the sofa watching Tin Tin on the TV and munching something lovely that Marcia has knocked up. I have no idea what it is but it certainly smells nice.
In the morning, Alex and I need to teach her how to fish. I bet she can't swim either. There's another job for us.